Saturday, June 23, 2018

An Easy, Summertime Labneh Recipe from Chef John Minas

Chef John Mikhail Minas 

In 2011, Doug and I were introduced to Chef John Minas by way of Taniel Koushakjian, founder and editor-in-chief of
the Florida Armenians Face Book page. At the time, Chef Minas was newly selected as the Executive Chef for Governor Rick Scott and his First Lady at the Governor’s Mansion, Tallahassee, FL. 
Quite an achievement for such a young chef!

(Click here to read Doug's original story about Chef Minas’ background and early days as an Executive Chef.) 

When the article was written, Chef Minas was just getting started. He’d planned to stay in Tallahassee for a long time, which he did. When asked what his future plans were, he stated, “… who knows?”

Since his departure from the Governor’s Mansion, Chef Minas became the Executive Chef/ Managing Partner at the Edison Restaurant (Tallahassee), and is now the Founder/Executive Chef at Minas Hospitality

Who could ask for more?

We wish Chef Minas the very best!!

The following recipe and photo are from Chef Minas’ Blog, and are printed here with his permission.

Chef Minas' Labneh

2 Quarts Greek Yogurt, whole milk
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly.
Place four large layers of cheesecloth over a colander (leave plenty of overhang).
Pour yogurt mixture into center of cheesecloth. Lift sides of overhanging cheesecloth to form a pouch (some water will leak out from the yogurt and that is expected).
Twist the pouch until the yogurt forms a tight ball and tie into a knot. Hang in refrigerator for 3 days with a bowl underneath to catch excess water.
After 3 days, remove yogurt from cheesecloth and store into a container with a tight lid.
Serve with Aleppo pepper, dried mint, olive oil and fresh pita.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Keep Dad COOL, this Father's Day with these recipes by Christine Datian!

Christine Vartanian-Datian lives in Las Vegas, I don't need to tell you how hot it can get there. She likes to keep things cool by preparing recipes that don't take long to make and/or won't heat up the kitchen. 
Here are two of her recipes which recently appeared in the Armenian Mirror Spectator, Chilled Summer Squash and Potato Soup, and Broccoli and Walnut, Grapes, and Feta Salad.

Have a COOL and Happy Day, Dads!!

Christine Datian's Chilled Summer Squash and Potato Soup

Chilled Summer Squash and Potato Soup   
Serves 4-6                                    


6-7 medium zucchini, yellow crookneck or pattypan squash, sliced or diced (Choose your favorite, or combine a few.)
1 large onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cups potatoes, peeled, cubed or diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced (plus tops)
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
Pinch of dried thyme

Garnishes: Non-fat plain yogurt, chopped chives, basil, parsley, paprika or mint

In a large pot, sauté the squash you have chosen to use, onions, garlic, potatoes, celery and carrots in butter and olive oil for 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are tender; toss occasionally.

Add the broth, lemon juice, salt, pepper and thyme, stir, and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, puree soup (in batches) until medium smooth, but there are traces of zucchini and carrots visible.

Place soup in a container, cover, and chill for 4-6 hours or overnight. Soup can be served at room temperature, if desired.

If desired, whisk in a little half-and-half or ricotta cheese and a little lemon juice before serving. 
Top with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with choice of chives, basil, parsley, paprika or mint.

Drizzle with olive oil and serve lemon wedges on the side.

Christine's Broccoli Salad with Walnuts, Grapes, and Feta

Broccoli Salad with Walnuts, Grapes and Feta
Serves 4-6


1 large head broccoli, cleaned, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup red seedless grapes
1 red apple, peel on, cored and diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup celery (and tops), chopped
1/2 cup green onions (scallions), sliced or chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup red onions, minced
10 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup green olives, chopped, optional
2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional
Juice and zest of one large lemon, optional
1 cup Italian or creamy salad dressing (to taste)

1 cup walnuts halves or slivered almonds
6-8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)


In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients except the walnuts, cheese, salt and pepper, and toss with dressing.  Cover and chill for up to 8 hours, tossing occasionally.

To serve, toss with walnuts (or slivered almonds), Feta cheese, salt and pepper, and garnish with more walnuts or almonds, if desired.

Serve salad on a bed of fresh spinach, endive, arugula or lettuce with sliced avocados and tomatoes or fresh sliced fruit on the side.

Serve with extra dressing.

*This salad is best if made the night before serving, so that flavors can blend.

*Christine’s recipes have been published in the Fresno Bee newspaper, Sunset magazine, Cooking Light magazine, and at

Friday, June 8, 2018

An Untimely Passing

Barely three weeks ago, the Armenian community watched with pride, as Anthony Bourdain's program featuring Armenia aired. 

Sadly, today, we mourn his passing.

Thank you, Mr. Bourdain, for sharing your culinary expertise and recent tour of Armenia with the world.

You will be missed.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Our South Carolina Home Blessing

It's official!
Doug and I are now legal residents of South Carolina, and, we have been welcomed into the Armenian community in the Carolinas. What I mean by that is, on May 31st, our new home was blessed by Father Samuel Rith-Najarian of St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, NC.

Our Home Blessing- officiated by Fr. Samuel Rith-Najarian

We’ve been living in our home for almost 3 months now. We’re unpacked and enjoying our new surroundings. Our daughter, son-in-law, and our dear friend from Maine have already visited us in our new abode. My sister will join us here in a few weeks.

That said, Doug and still I felt a bit unsettled, that is, until Father Sam blessed our home as a few friends - new and old - witnessed this event.

Now that our home, we, and anyone who may ever pass through our doors, have been blessed, we are feeling quite content and happy. Thank you, Father Sam!

(L-R) Me, Father Samuel, and Doug in our dining room. Once the food was blessed, it was time to dine! 
(Photos by Andy Kabasakalian)
A home blessing isn’t complete (at least to me) unless a meal follows. Our celebration menu consisted of Lule Kebab, pita bread, Sarma Gurgood (aka Tabbouleh), tossed salad, yogurt-tahini sauce, marinated red onions with sumac, and for dessert, cheese kadaif, and fresh fruit.

I believe all in attendance enjoyed the event and sustenance, as much as Doug and I did.

It’s great to be HOME!

For more information on Home Blessings, please click here.